Last week, when the USDA announced that an unauthorized strain of GMO wheat was recently discovered on an Oregon farm, it was widely reported (by us, among others) that Monsanto had stopped field-testing its genetically modified wheat in 2005.
Now Bloomberg reports that the biotech giant actually resumed field tests of GMO wheat in 2011:
The world’s largest seed company planted 150 acres of wheat in Hawaii last year that was genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate weedkiller, which the company sells under the brand name Roundup, according to a Virginia Tech database administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Another 300 acres of wheat engineered with Roundup tolerance and other traits are being tested in North Dakota this year.
Were these recent field trials linked to the outbreak of unwanted GMO wheat in Oregon? We don’t know that yet. Monsanto, which you may or may not choose to trust, told Bloomberg in an email that the Roundup Ready wheat in the new trials is “an entirely different event” than the escaped crop discovered in Oregon.
It’s weird to describe wheat as an “event,” instead of, oh, I don’t know, a “crop.” Seems like somebody is playing with words.
The company didn’t say whether the GMO wheat that it’s now growing in field trials is the same strain as the GMO wheat that showed up in Oregon. “The Roundup Ready wheat project that is the subject of the USDA report was previously discontinued,” Monsanto cryptically told Bloomberg.
Monsanto abandoned its previous Roundup Ready wheat trials in 2005, without securing government approval for the crop, at least in part because U.S. wheat farmers feared that a GMO strain could hurt exports. They were right. Exports have been hurt, even though the GMO strain was never OK’d or sold. Just imagine how much damage Monsanto could do to exports if it ever actually brings GMO wheat to market.